(makes roughly four dozen)
Preheat oven to 375 and line two cookie sheets with parchment.
Cream 1 cup of sugar and 2/3 cup unsalted butter. Add 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest, 3 eggs, and 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract. In separate bowl, mix 3 cups flour, 2.5 teaspoons baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon sale, and 2 tablespoons anise seed. Add dry ingredients to wet. Then add 2/3 cup dried, unsweetened cranberries, and 2/3 cup pistachios. Form dough into four balls.
Shape each ball into logs about 3/4 inch thick. Lay two logs on each baking sheet, with the parchment between the dough and sheet. (Yes, son. This specific advice about the parchment is for you.)
Bake for 25 minutes, switching the cookie sheets halfway through. Remove from oven. Let cool five minutes. Then slice each log into roughly 1/2 inch slices, spreading the slices back on the parchment.
Bake an additional seven minutes, again switching the sheets at the mid-point. Let cool, then top with the best quality melted chocolate you can find .
Simplify. Slow down. Breath.
That seems to be what God is telling me this holiday season. I don’t even remember the last eighteen months, when Mom became gravely ill in a drama that ended with her death a week before Christmas. Dad followed four months later. The True North of my life seemed to slip, my world tilting on its axis.
I’m trying to pace myself, cut myself some slack. If I don’t, who will? Although my family has been flawless and kind, I’m aware that I’m setting an example for them. How to love. How to let go. How to grieve. How to heal. How to exercise self-care. (I don’t think women, particularly Christian women, are very good at that last one. We need to take our forty days in the Wilderness every once in a while.)
I was wrapping presents Saturday, baking for Christmas, trying to finish a project for my literary agent. Scurrying. Stressing just a little. Then movement outside one of the enormous windows caught my eye.
I don’t know how much you know about bobcats, but they’re elusive. VERY elusive. And nocturnal. Catching a glimpse of one is rare. A privilege to those who camp for hours in the snow, suffering frostbite, cameras ready.
I looked through the glass. And I looked again. Sure enough, a large male bobcat was in the meadow. Chasing (and catching) rabbits thirty feet away. When he finished his meal, he cleaned himself like our twenty-two-year-old tabby, then walked within a foot of me. We were separated by six inches of construction.
Animals are our mountain neighbors. They come to the house, unaware of us because they don’t catch our scent. We marvel at them through triple-pane windows, thankful we didn’t cosset ourselves behind wood beams and pseudo-western architecture.
But a bobcat? I heard it during a winter storm two years ago. I saw it run through the meadow that spring. My neighbor saw it on his driveway a month ago. These were glimpses, not gazes. Sightings, which excited everyone on top of this mountain.
I stared at him. He stared at me. And I realized that sometimes all God asks me to do is stare. At His beauty. His general revelation of Himself.
Watching this bobcat for forty-five minutes was a form of meditation. I felt connected to something much grander than myself, putting all of that day’s activities in a timeless perspective.
The tasks were important. But not critical enough to miss that bobcat.
Take time, friends. You might be missing the bobcats in your world. Some experiences can become revelations that are just too remarkable to miss.
Last week I shared the Alpha Turkey, my traditional Thanksgiving blog post about the habits of the turkey posse that rides through these parts every year or two.
This week I snapped the fine dude at the top of the page. He’s easily the biggest buck I’ve seen in six-and-a-half years. He’s also very spooky, which explains how he grew to such a majestic size. I worked hard to get the photo before he literally headed for the hills. He’s been outmaneuvering me for ten days.
Two weeks ago I saw the bobcat. He’s a lot faster than I am, and I almost turned myself inside out trying to get a photo. Then the feline chilled on my neighbor’s driveway, taunting me. Bobcats are pretty rare here, so seeing one is quite the coup among strange people (like me) to whom such things are important. I suspect that he knew he was a star.
It’s that time of year. Busy with everything. Writing, cooking, decorating, wrapping, mailing, shipping. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and totally miss the point of the holidays—thankfulness and holiness. Joy. Peace. Grace.
Don’t even get me started on going to the mall.
Keeping myself focused this year is critical. Mother was (actively) dying this time last year, with less than a month to live. I was the Little Dutch Boy putting his fingers in the dyke, trying to stop the carnage. Then Dad died four months later, and I can’t even remember the holidays. There are seasons like last year, in which we do what we must to be fully human, to live in the image of God, the Imago Dei.
As I take the time to see and stalk and photograph these critters who share my world, I want to encourage you to act like that bobcat and chill a little. Reconnect with your natural world and withdraw a little from your daily one. Take time for yourself. Take a walk. Meditate. Read scripture. Let the rest of the world wait a few minutes.
Thankfulness and holiness. Joy, peace and grace to you. May you live in the Imago Dei.